Laser Tools Racing Rally Team 2021 Season Review
Peter Outram reports
Round 1: Harold Palin Rally
This year we had Mick Munday from Laser Tools sitting in the navigator’s seat and Stage 1 was a bit of a shakedown with not having driven the car for five months. With the stages being very fast we took a bit of time to get the braking points sorted but we finished Stage 1 in 23rd position with no issues with the car. It was a good position to build on through the day. Stage 2 was a re-run of Stage 1 and we increased our pace a little and so gained one place; Stage 3 saw us drop down a little as other crews increased their pace but with the car running well, we could have a push in the afternoon to improve on our 24th overall and 4th in class. We had a trouble free run on Stage 4 and moved up 3 places in the overall standings to be 21st. Another clean run on stage 5 which saw us set the 16th quickest time and move up to 20th overall. After another clean run on the final stage we moved up to 19th overall and 4th in class but more importantly we had no damage or issues with the car all day — it was great to come away with that result for the team on the first event of the season.
Round 2: John Overend Memorial Rally
The start of the day was quite misty but the forecast was for a warm and dry day so potentially the dust may cause an issue from the car in front. We were seeded at car 16 so the road would not have cleaned up much in front of us, so a cautious approach would be needed. Completing the first in 4min 10 seconds we were nicely placed in 19th position and only 2 seconds behind the class leader in the championship so a push on the next few stages would be required now we knew the grip levels on the stages and that there were no issues with dust as expected. Stage 2 we increased our speed a little then about half way round we saw the car of the rival in our class beached on a bank and the crew out of the car and with this we knew we had the class lead in the championship. From now it was full concentration as to make sure we did not make any errors ourselves and throw away a potential championship points win. It was all going to plan even though our rival was taking a few seconds out of us here and there we had a comfortable gap going to the lunch break of 1min 22sec, so all we had to do was to keep our head and not make any sill mistakes which we did and finished 18th overall and 2nd in class and again no issues with the car at all.
Round 3: Flying Fortress Rally
For the next round off the 2021 championships the Laser Tools Rally Team travelled south to the ex-American Air force base at Kettering for the Rex Pets Flying Fortress. The venue has some quite fast straights as well as some slower narrow and technical sections on the service roads through the trees. The forecast for the day was to be a hot one and with the excellent entry we needed to make a good start on the first stage.
We set off in to the first stage but I had made a bad choice on the rear tyres and we lost a bit of time but we ended the stage in 25th overall and 3rd in class. Over the next couple of stages we did increase our pace a little but after catching a car in the narrow section and him not letting us past we dropped to 28th overall and 4th in class at the lunch break. Once again, we need to push on the afternoon stages to move ourselves back up the order but this was made more difficult after we were stopped in the stage after a car had gone off and blocked the road. This meant we were given a notational time for that stage which was 24 seconds slower than our previous run over the stage which meant a big push would be needed on the last two stages. A small change to the rear suspension made the car a bit more stable in the fast corners so with the confidence growing we managed to climb to 22nd overall and 3rd in class by the end of the day and a good point score for the championships.
Round 4: Phoenix Stages Rally
This was one of our favorite venues so we were looking for a good result here with the knowledge of the stages we hope for an advantage over some of the other 70 competitors. Stage 1 was wet and there was quite a lot of loose debris on the surface from the farm activities on the roads and we did get caught out on a loose section early on so we were lying 28th after the first stage which was not where we wanted to be. We put this behind us going in to Stage 2 and with a stage time 15th quickest we moved up to 23rd overall and this is what we needed to carry on doing through the day. The next few stages were all clean and the surface had also cleaned up and as we had moved up the standings to 18th overall. By the lunch break we now put on slick tyres hoping to move up a few more places but with a half spin in a tight section on the cold tyres we dropped two places. But over the next couple of stages we were matching the times of the cars around us and a big push on the final stage saw us gain 1 place to finish the day in 19th overall and 3rd in class. Happy with this and the championship points we gained.
Round 5: Vale of York Stages Rally
Seeded at car 19 we were hopeful of a good result and with only three rounds left in the championship a good points score was required to keep us towards the top of the table. The first stage of eight miles started for us at 09:17 and just over half a mile in to the stage I noticed the car was pulling to the left going down the straight and as we turned the square right at the end of the straight the car was understeering but I thought that it could be the road surface not being dirty and causing the issue. We continued on but the problem got worse and I suspected that we had a puncture and this was confirmed when we got to a point where the car was starting to vibrate as the tyre was coming off the wheel. We decided to stop and change the wheel to save any damage to the suspension but this would drop us 3min 30 seconds which put us in last place at the end of the stage. With five stages left we knew it was going to be a difficult day but you never know what other issues people might have so we would try our best to make up some places through the day hopefully with no more issues.
Stage 2 was a repeat of the first one but we were trying a little too hard and made some mistakes and a few close calls so I decided to ease off on Stage 3 to preserve the car and keep it neat and tidy with the times hopefully coming to us. This seemed to work and we gradually started to move up the order stage after stage and by the end of stage 3 we had moved up to 44th place so things were going the right way. A push on Stage 4 saw an improvement of six places so we were now aiming for a top 30 finish. We missed out on this by one place finishing in 31st and 6th in class but a positive from the day is that we were competitive and consistent on the five stages after the puncture and the car was faultless again throughout the day.
Round 6: Malton Forest Stages
Sunday 7th November saw us travel up to the North Yorkshire Forests for 2021 Malton Forest Rally, and with the cancelation of last year’s event due to the pandemic it had been two years since we had last competed in the forest on gravel roads. With this in mind we knew that the first stage would be a sighting run to find the grip levels and settle us in for the remaining stages. With Jemma still out for the rest of the year Mick Munday was once again sitting in the navigator’s seat for his first forest rally on pace notes, so this would be a massive learning curve for him on this one.
The rally had in fact started for us a couple of weeks previously when the pace notes and DVD had been delivered. These were the descriptive instructions Mick would be reading to me as we were driving against the clocks on the special stages detailing the direction and severity of the corners as well as any other information such as crests, log piles at the side of the road and narrow gate posts, etc. Sunday morning was dry and bright but heavy overnight rain would make the stages very slippery so a bit of caution would be needed on the first stage to get an idea of the grip level on the forest tracks. So, after a 20-mile road section from the service area we arrived at the stage start for the first run through Gale Rigg a 6-mile stage with some nice open-flowing corners as well as some fast straights and tight narrow sections. We set off on Stage 1 and the first few fast corners were good but unfortunately Mick lost his place in the notes (a common thing on being the first time using them), so I was relaying where we were on the stage as well as driving as quick as I could on memory of what the next corner was (from the DVD), which made for some interesting lines in the corners but we got through without any issues. The time was not great and we were 59th overall out of 120 competitors so it could have been a lot worse. There was a short road section of two miles to the next stage so not much time to gather our thoughts and we were onto Stage 2. Mick had got to grips with the notes this time and was delivering them much better so we were hoping our time would reflect this. We moved up to 51st position until an eight minute penalty was added for booking in early to a time control. We now had a 20-mile road section back to a 15 min service where we refuel the car and a quick check over as well as grab a bite to eat and a drink. We changed the rear tyre where we had hit the bank as some gravel had got lodged in the bead and could have caused a puncture but other than that all was well with the car.
To get to Stage 3 we had an 8-mile road section to get there and all was well as we pulled up to the time control and booked in ready to start Stage 3. Mick was now getting even better with the delivery of the pace notes and was able to pick up his place if he got a little lost but and as we approached a tight 90 degree right hand corner and we accelerated away from it there was a loud bang and we had lost drive with a broken half shaft. So the rally was over and we parked up at the side of the road. This was disappointing as we were just starting to get used to the grip level and pace notes but that’s the highs and lows of rallying!
Round 7: Maxus Dukeries Rally Donington
For the final round of the 2021 championship the Laser Tools Racing Rally Team were competing in the Maxus Dukeries Rally at Donington Park race circuit on the 5th Dec and with nearly 100 cars entered the competition would be stiff and as always, the weather was forecast to be cold with the possibility of showers through the day. The conditions would be a little challenging to say the least and to add to this the last mile of the stages would be on the infield on loose gravel with tarmac tyres on.
Sunday morning as expected was cold and wet so this made the tyre choice easy and we put the wet compound tyres on and this would also help on the loose sections to give us a little bit more grip (hopefully). Stage 1 and 2 were both the same layout and just under nine miles in length but unfortunately the slippery conditions and cold tyres caught us out on the old circuit and we had a half spin losing about 8-10 seconds. So I needed to ease off a little until we got the temperatures up if we could. The stage was going OK until we came to the gravel section where I carried way to much speed over a crest into a square left and had no option but to let the car drift sideways into the tyre barrier. We carried on to the end of the stage and all seemed well with the car but we would need to give the suspension a check over in service for any damage. We were lucky just a small amount of body damage is all we had suffered so we could get back out for the following stages but we were in 54th position and had work to do. Stage 2 was a repeat of Stage 1 and we had a lot cleaner run, 40 seconds quicker and moved up 10 places now to 44th. The next stage was 9.4 miles and the drying track saw us move up four places to 40th overall. We started to think about our tyre choice and maybe go to full slicks for the next one but a sudden shower soon made the choice easy again and we left the wets on for the next stage and other than a couple of half spins we had a good run with no issues. So, with two stages left to run we were now up to 39th position overall and we were pleased with that out of nearly 100 entrants.
Stage 5 saw another heavy shower come down that made the stages really tricky and to make things even worse the low sun was now shining directly in our eyes as we came up the Craner Curves into a chicane we almost had to stop to see where we had to go but we again moved up further one place to 38th. For the final stage we fitted the spot lights as darkness had descended and once again the rain was coming down even heavier now. Not wanting to risk our position we had a cautious run round so as to not lose too much time but to keep the speed there. It paid off as we gain another two places to finish 36th overall and 6th in class which provisionally has given us the class 4 win in the EMAMC championship for 2021 which is what we set out to do at the beginning of the year.
Final championship scores for 2021:
Association of North East Midlands Motor Clubs Championship:
Driver Peter Outram 7th overall and class 4 winner
Co-Driver Mick Munday 4th overall and class 4 winner
East Midlands Association of Motor Clubs Championship:
Driver Peter Outram 7th overall and class 4 winner
Co-Driver Mick Munday 4th overall and class 4 winner
All in all another great season for the Laser Tools Racing Rally Team in both championships, finishing well up in the top ten and class 4 winners. None of this would be possible if it wasn’t for the amazing volunteers who marshal in all weathers, the organisers who spend hours arranging all the details to put these rallies together all through the year and the medical staff who we hopefully never need but are there for us if we do. A massive thanks to Mick Munday for standing in for Jemma while she has been recovering from her back-operation, to my service team Anthony Windle and Tim Windle who have kept the car going all season and the invaluable team talks to improve our performance each time and to my family for all the support you give me throughout the year both on the rallies and during the preparation for them and last but not least to Laser Tools Racing for the support again this year we hope see you all in 2022.